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Switzerland stops new banking business with Russians on EU sanctions list

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 26 Feb, 2022 Updated Sat 26 Feb 2022 10:45 CEST
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A branch of Swiss banking giant UBS in Lausanne. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Russian individuals and entities on a European Union blacklist will not be able to use Swiss banks to circumvent European sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland's Financial Supervisory Authority (Finma) said on Friday.

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As of 6pm on Friday evening, financial intermediaries in Switzerland were prohibited from entering into new business relationships with the individuals and companies on the sanctions list, and must immediately report existing business relationships, Finma said in a statement.

"Further steps to strengthen these measures are currently being prepared," Finma said.

Earlier, the Swiss government added to its watchlist 363 new Russian individuals and four companies that the EU had put on its sanctions list.

In 2020, Russian citizens had just under 10.5 billion Swiss francs in Swiss banks, according to Finews

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Usually neutral
Switzerland is outside both the EU and Nato and has a long history of neutrality.

But while some have criticised Switzerland for not imposing its own sanctions and hiding behind this neutrality, there are other reasons, according to Livia Lieu, an official at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

She said that Switzerland exercises the role of “protective power “in certain international conflicts – for example, it represents Russian interests in Georgia, and vice versa.

Switzerland's delicate role as intermediary would therefore be in peril if the country were to act against Russia.

"Our position, and above all my goal, is to leave the doors open so that we can do what most other countries can no longer do – keep the channels open between countries that no longer have diplomatic relations. Switzerland can provide this added value," Swiss President and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said at a news conference in Bern on Friday.

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The Local 2022/02/26 10:45

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